Brandon Boyer

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Showing no signs of letting schedules return to normal, publisher D3 and Infinite Interactive have followed directly on the heels of their initial online Flash demo of sci-fi puzzler and Real Ultimate Timesink Puzzle Quest: Galactrix with an even more extensive PC demo, available via Big Download.

Unlike the Flash version’s battle-mode only limitations, the PC demo lets you play the first good hour or two (by my watch) of the game, and get a feel for its overworld, mission structure, and ancillary activities like asteroid mining, warpgate hacking and item crafting.

The verdict? Everything feels comfortably as if it was in the same spot as you last left it despite the galactic overhaul, from the frantic time-based challenges of its hacking minigame (here scoring matches in a set sequence rather than against an opponent) and familiarity of crafting and mining — it certainly earns the Puzzle Quest in its title.

But it also hints at much greater complexity to unfold: shuttling mined ore to the outposts that pay the highest price, your eventual bank of three ships with configurable weaponry (Galactrix‘s versions of PQ‘s spells) and crew that can be recruited throughout the quest.

And that’s just the overworld window dressing. As I noted in the last look, Galactrix‘s battles (particularly its shield and mine mechanics) push it well beyond simple tile-swaps, and both its shape and its omni-direction lack of gravity light up an entirely different part of your brain. It’s as fresh and initially baffling as it was to move from Tetris to Lumines — the language is the same, but the syntax is incompatible.

D3 also announced today that the game will be coming to the DS on February 24th, with a still-nebulous “early 2009” for its PC, Xbox Live Arcade, and PlayStation Network release, good news for a wait that’s already felt too long.

Download Puzzle Quest: Galactrix [Big Download, game site]

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